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Twister brought disaster home for local volunteer

Tornado cuts through responder's yard.

BY SUSAN KIM | Hampton, VA | September 8, 2004

"That there weren't any casualties is really quite something," said Hop Crowder, a volunteer who has responded to disasters around the country with the Baptist Men and other faith-based groups.

On Saturday night, though, Crowder was living through it himself: the tornado cut across his backyard before weaving into a more densely populated section of town.

"A fireman called my house and said they needed someplace to put people. I told him to meet me at the front door of the church," Crowder, also a member of the Ivy Memorial Baptist Church, remembers.

"From there is was a matter of making phone calls, and volunteers from the church brought food, the American Red Cross came, and we stayed open until 1:30 a.m. until everybody found a place to go."

"The most gratifying thing was that we gave many elderly people a place to keep calm, and the firemen were even able to salvage their medicines and bring them along."

President Clinton has declared Hampton a federal disaster area, and inspections of the damaged buildings are ongoing. "But things are looking up," said Crowder. "The sun is shining."

A tornado also touched down in Chesapeake, Va., destroying a barn and downing power lines.

In North Carolina, some 350 homes were flooded by Dennis -- first as a hurricane then as a tropical storm -- and many residents are relieved to simply be able to assess their damages without worrying about Dennis returning. Homes in Pamlico Sound and Cedar Island -- most vacation homes or rental properties -- were hit hardest, some left with more than three feet of water in them from a nine-foot storm surge over the weekend.

Damage assessments are still being conducted in more rural areas. "We still think there are a number of isolated homes along the Pamlico Sound and in the Cedar Island area that have experienced major flooding," said Charlie Moeller, a disaster resource facilitator for Church World Service. "Many of those homes are in the backwoods, where roads have been blocked by high water. We are still getting better

information on the people that need the most help."

In Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, and stretching into Pennsylvania and further north, residents nervously waited out tornado and flood watches -- but ended up with only isolated flooding. The Potomac River level is at its normal level -- at least temporarily -- for the first time in many months, because the DC metro area received six inches of rain in two days. Water lapped at the foot of buildings in Alexandria, Va.,

but receded quickly, and forecasters said that another foot of rain would be needed to bring rainfall back to normal conditions after several months of severe drought in the eastern United States.

For many farmers, the rain came way too late, said Don Vandrey, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. "In terms of corn and soybeans, it's too late," he said. "But for the fall crops just going in now, the small grains -- wheat, barley, oats -- this rain is just what those seeds need to germinate right now."

"If those crops grow well, farmers will have some feed for the winter, although they will still need a significant amount of help because they're using their winter hay stores right now." Also, Vandrey added, there is no significant change in the overall dry weather pattern, and fall is the region's driest time of year.

Still, the rain just makes people -- even drought-stricken farmers -- feel more optimistic, he said. "I don't think you can discount the psychological impact of the rain. People are feeling more positive."

Weather forecasters are still marveling at Dennis' persistence and "staying power." Generally, tropical storms affect a single area for 12 hours or less, including the approach and retreat.

Yet Dennis hung over the Carolina coast for nearly a week. At the peak of the storm, more than 18 shelters were opened in nine North Carolina coastal counties, and more than 5,000 people were without power.

The North Carolina Division of Emergency Management reported that some 150 homes were flooded in Craven County and more than 100 in Pamlico County, where floodwaters were up to four feet deep, and some county buildings were also flooded and diesel fuel spills and propane tanks are causing pollution hazards.

Reports also indicated that half of Ocracoke Island is flooded. The communities of Belhaven, Washington, Washington Park, Aurora, and Cedar Island were also hard-hit, in addition to Pamlico Sound and Cedar Island. Even metropolitan areas such as Raleigh-Durham picked up more than six inches of rain over the

weekend.

Throughout the past week, parts of the Southeast baked as temperatures soared way above seasonal averages. Parts of Alabama reached record highs of 101 degrees, and Atlanta, Ga., hit 96.

Weather forecasters are now tracking Tropical Storm Floyd, which has formed as a tropical depression in the central tropical Atlantic and is still moving westward while continuing to strengthen. This season's seventh tropical depression weakened considerably before hitting the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.


Related Topics:

Atlantic storm morphs into Javier

Florida prepares for TS Colin

More hurricanes predicted in '16


More links on Tropical Storms

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